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Full consequences too seldom pondered

Published 8:00am Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I’ve been teaching my son and daughter to play chess the last few months. I happily recall my dad doing the same with me, both kneeling in the living room floor around the ottoman on which the board was set.
It always warms my heart when Kodi asks, “can we play chess, daddy?” (At age 9, she’s usually concerned after school with Just Dance 4 or the latest episode of “Good Luck Charlie”)
The chess lessons gave me the opportunity last night to teach a valuable lesson in the importance of considering the unintended consequences possible in every move. In a game this weekend, I moved my bishop into her territory, and she quickly moved to head off its diagonal advance.
My bishop scoots the other direction, her rook zooms in to follow. There would be occasional breaks in the pursuit, at which points I’d move a pawn here or there. Then I moved the bishop one last time, her rook followed and, zing, in charges my queen out of nowhere to put her king in check. Three moves later, it was checkmate.
The unintended consequence of Kodi’s focus on my marauding bishop was the exposure of her king. It’s a lesson our lawmakers and officials at all levels would do well to keep in mind.
Three examples. At a monthly town council meeting Monday night, recurring complaints about the morning and afternoon traffic jam around the elementary school were raised once again. Specifically, a resident complained about the number of people who run the stop sign.
“If no one’s going to stop there, better to just take them up,” someone said.
And out of the blue, there was a motion, a second, and all but one council member voted aye. Suddenly, two-thirds of a three-way stop vanished, without a single traffic study done, or dissenting viewpoint consulted.
Maybe it’ll be the solution they’ve been searching for. Maybe it will spit traffic jams out in some new direction and create a new raft of problems.
Who knows?
On a state level, our public school leaders have been particularly concerned about the Alabama Accountability Act. This was the legislation initially known as the flexibility bill, which mutated in conference committee into a de facto school choice bill. It stands to extend tax credits to offset the cost of private school to parents whose children need to escape a failing school.
It also makes tax credits available to individuals or corporations that donate to groups providing private school scholarships to such refugees of failing schools.
Superintendent Jeff Langham has been pretty upset about it since the morning after the expanded, repurposed bill passed. The members of the county school board passed a resolution calling for the complete repeal of the bill that, as a flexibility measure, navigated both legislative chambers with strong support from the education community.
Langham said he worried about the unintended consequences of sending chunks of the Education Trust Fund, in large part, to private schools. He also worried that a deluge of students might flee subpar school systems to our south in favor of Elmore County’s greener pastures.
The unintended consequence that’s interesting to me, though, is on the Republican supermajority in the Legislature. Bet they didn’t expect to draw this much fire from Elmore County, one of the counties most staunchly in their corner, according to voting patterns and its all-red delegation.
Forethought is similarly needed on the federal level, as full implementation of health care reform approaches, and Congress debates a new comprehensive immigration bill. Specifically, the full range of consequences to the already wounded job market need to be pondered before adding a deluge of newly legal workers. The law known as ObamaCare has already jacked up the cost of hiring a worker. And if the number of workers who have simply given up looking for a job is factored in, the unemployment rate balloons to almost 15 percent.
How will the injection of up to 10 million new legal residents and citizens affect the economy? Has the “gang of eight” and its allies even pondered that question?
Unfortunately, they are likely thinking as far ahead as those who pushed corn-based ethanol as a remedy to the dreaded global warming. It turns out if you give farmers lots of money to turn corn into gasoline, it makes it more expensive to use that corn for its historically accepted use.
Lunch.
Politics and public policy is a game of chess, with officials elected and appointed moving resources around in hopes of finding a winning balance.
But every once in a while, if you aren’t thinking a few moves ahead, there’s an angry queen waiting on the back line to blow the whole plan to pieces.
***
Crime Notes from the Lighter Side:
As a continuation of last week’s theme, from the files of the Elmore County Sheriff’s Department, I present a classic explanation in an otherwise routine domestic violence report.
A father and son are embroiled in an argument loud and raucous enough to attract law enforcement attention.
The son had pushed his father down and stated, by the deputy’s telling, “he owed him $800 for some cocaine.”
Oh, well in that case …

David D. Goodwin is political edtior of The Wetumpka Herald. Direct questions or comments to david.goodwin@thewetumpkaherald.com.

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